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Solar STAT Blog

This blog discusses state and local efforts to develop solar markets in the United States. With support from the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, members of NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) author posts related to events, solar policy analysis, and technical assistance outcomes for the purpose of informing the market in a credible and timely fashion.

Call for Applications: Solar PV Training Program for City and County Staff

October 09, 2017 by Alison Holm

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, is launching a training program for city and county staff to learn about putting solar on their facilities, whether it’s on municipal buildings or owned land. Continue reading

STAT Network attends NASEO's 2017 Annual Meeting to Talk Low-income Community Solar with Partners

September 25, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

States are continually innovating on the solar policy and program front, with one of the more popular recent topics being community solar applications for low- and moderate income (LMI) populations. (See previous STAT blogs on community solar policies and efforts to expand solar access to LMI populations for additional background.)  Over the past year, NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network partnered with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) and Lotus Engineering and Sustainability (Lotus) to analyze CEO’s Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project. The trio presented an overview of the analysis and lessons learned from the project at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) in New Orleans, Louisiana (agenda) last week. Continue reading

Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations

September 22, 2017 by Alison Holm

We are seeing rapid transformation in the rooftop solar market with falling costs and increased deployment, but these changes don’t mean that every new building will suddenly be outfitted with a solar energy system tomorrow, or next week, or even next year. However, there are building design options that can be leveraged today in order to take advantage of potential solar installations in the future.

Solar-ready building design, as the name suggests, refers to designing and constructing a building in a way that facilitates and optimizes the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system at some point after the building has been constructed. Solar-ready design can make future PV system installation more cost-effective by reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades, ensuring solar technical feasibility, and planning for PV system optimization. Solar-ready design is not a new concept—several states and municipalities, including California and Tucson, Arizona, have already started including solar-ready design mandates in their building ordinances and policies*—but it is still a relevant one, particularly in areas experiencing new urban development.

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Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Helping Communities Reach Renewable Energy Goals

September 19, 2017 by Benjamin Mow

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is becoming a more prevalent method for local communities to source electricity. Under CCA programs, cities and local governments generate or buy electricity, usually from renewable energy sources, based on the needs of their residents.

CCAs are a hybrid between municipal utilities and standard investor-owned utilities (IOU), as depicted in Figure 1. Typically, utilities (whether investor-owned or municipal) are responsible for purchasing and distributing power, grid maintenance, and customer service. Under a CCA program, the CCA, which is administered by the local government, purchases the power, while the incumbent IOU maintains the grid and provides customer service. Because the local government is involved in some of the standard utility functions, the CCA could be considered a middle ground between an IOU and a municipal utility.

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Customers in Most States Could Cut Energy Costs by Adding Battery Storage to Solar

September 14, 2017 by Seth Mullendore

New research shows that more than 25 percent of all commercial customers across the continental United States may be able to further reduce their electricity bills by adding battery storage in conjunction with solar installations. And perhaps surprisingly, some of the best economic opportunities for customer-sited storage are in states like Colorado, Michigan, and Georgia.

These findings are detailed in a new paper released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Clean Energy Group (CEG), Identifying Potential Markets for Behind-the-Meter Battery Energy Storage: A Survey of U.S. Demand Charges. It represents the first comprehensive analysis of commercial battery storage market opportunities across the U.S., finding that about 5 million customers nationwide may have the potential to cost-effectively invest in storage technologies today.

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Call for Applications: Analysis Support for State Public Utility Commissions (Due Sept. 1)

August 01, 2017 by Alison Holm

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), is initiating a three-year analytical support program for state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs will have access to in-depth analytical support from the national laboratories on topics related to distribution system planning and regulatory, policy, programmatic, and technology assessments of distributed energy resources (DERs). Continue reading

Join NREL Experts in a Full-day Solar Decision-making Tools Workshop

June 16, 2017 by Alison Holm

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network is hosting a one-day training for state decision-makers on how to use NREL’s portfolio of solar tools to inform decisions. The meeting will focus primarily on the  System Advisor Model  (SAM);  Jobs and Economic Development Impact  (JEDI) models, the  Distributed Generation Market Demand  (dGen) model and the  Renewable Energy Planning and Optimization  (ReOpt) platform. This training session will provide state energy office staff an opportunity to learn about the solar policy questions these tools can help answer and how NREL’s solar tools can contribute to more robust energy policy analyses. In addition, participants will benefit from in-depth, hands-on training using their own state-specific data to address targeted policy questions. Continue reading

Solar Access: Issues and Policy Options

June 06, 2017 by Alison Holm

Distributed solar capacity in the United States is on the rise: approximately 2,580 megawatts (MW) of new residential solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was brought online in 2016, and installed capacity increased more than 50% every year between 2012 and 2015. Continue reading

STAT Discusses Opportunities for Solar on Brownfield Sites at the ASTSWMO-EPA RE-Powering Workshop

May 26, 2017 by Lars Lisell

There are over 450,000 known brownfield sites across the United States, and many of these are in urban or suburban areas. As real estate in urban environments becomes more competitive and as the demand for clean energy increases, unproductive, abandoned, or contaminated sites present abundant opportunities for clean energy. Decommissioned solid waste landfills, in particular, can play host to new solar photovoltaicPDF (PV) arrays. Continue reading

Best Practices in Zoning for Solar

April 21, 2017 by Megan Day

The price of solar energy generation has plummeted in recent years, with the average installed cost for residential solar photovoltaics (PV) dropping 43% between 2010 and 2015.[1] Most of this decline has come from falling equipment prices, with the non-equipment costs, also known as soft costs (Figure 1), remaining fairly consistent.

Local communities have a big role to play in reducing the soft costs associated with installing solar energy systems. In addition to permitting and inspection practices, local zoning ordinances can either inhibit or support distributed solar deployment within jurisdictions. Identifying and addressing barriers to solar energy installations in the local zoning code is a baseline strategy for reducing solar soft costs. Below are several factors that communities might consider in evaluating their local zoning practices to enable solar deployment.

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